Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hoboken Advocate Does Study on Hoboken Fire Department Sick Leave- The numbers are sickening!

Here is a excerpt fromt he recent Hoboken Advocate newsletter on Fire Department sick leave in Hoboken:

Fire Department Unlimited Sick Time and Contract Day Usage Study

The Police and Fire have an unlimited sick day policy. They also get unlimited "Contract Days". Contract Days are additional paid time off for things like funerals, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs. They do have to ask for permission to take a contract day but there is no limit to how many a Firefighter or Police Officer can take in a given year. It's completely up to a Firefighter's supervisor whether or not permission is granted. If the supervisor wants to grant 40 Contract Days to an employee in a given year, there is nothing the Administration or the public can do about it. All sick and contract days have to be backfilled typically at overtime pay.

As of the budget workshop in January, attendance records are tracked by the Police and Fire Departments themselves and held in the Police and Fire Departments instead of having to submit them to Human Resources.

The data presented by Fire Chief Blohm in January did not foot with the data for the same period, provided via the OPRA request. The City is not accountable for accuracy of documentation provided in OPRA requests however, I find it alarming that the data was so far apart. Again both the data presented at the budget workshop and from the OPRA request came from the Fire Department itself.

How well are they tracking attendance? Are they deliberately mis-coding attendance? Are they abusing these, all too generous, unlimited use policies?

By using the attendance records provided by Chief Blohm from the Budget workshop last January plus 3 years of data pulled from an OPRA request, I did a regression analysis to see if there was a significant shift in sick day and contract day usage pre and post state take offer. Again, the data provided in the budget workshop did not foot with the data provided in the OPRA request. I used the OPRA request data because it covered 3 years in lieu of one. Unfortunately, it did not break down absenteeism by month. I think it would be really interesting to see if there was a precipitous drop after June 2008

The data was thru January of 2010 so that's full year 2007, 2008 (the state take over took place June 2008), all of 2009 and January of 2010. This means the dataset had a year and a half before the state take over and a year and a half after the state take over.

Sick day and contract day usage dropped dramatically right around from 2008 to 2009. Notice the average number of days taken per person 28 days, 45 and 42, 2007, '08, and '09 respectively. That's the average. What's the average in your office? Have you ever heard someone taking that many days who was wasn't really ill. There are approximately 200 firefighters and there were about 8 people who were out for surgery per the January 2010 budget workshop document. By 6 standard deviations from the mean, it indicates that the data is not clustered close to the mean but is spread out. The 8 people who were out for surgery could not have spread the data over 6 standard deviations. This basically means there are a number of people who are taking considerably more than 40 some odd days a year, ie strong evidence that there are abusers.

Absent Police and Fire have to be replaced often times with overtime hours. Should Hoboken continue to over such an unlimited benefit?

Should sick days be limited to something like 10 days a year? Short term disability can be used to validate that someone is really ill and needs more. Short Term disability policies use a third party to certify, using medical records, that someone is really ill. When Lt. Andriani was out for 111 consecutive days, the department had no recourse to get him to come back to work. Per the contracts, no doctors note is required. Other than the judgement of one's supervisor there is no validation process for Contract Days either.

The Police Department ignored the Mayor's directive to supply attendance data in the January Budget workshop and also refused to supply data via the OPRA process.

I will re-request the data by month so we can take a closer look pre and post state takeover. Did their behavior shift after the state takeover? Let's see if we can get the Police Department to hand over its attendance records. Why are they trying so hard to hand it over? What's there that they don't want us to see?

- Reprinetd from the Hoboken Advocate Newsletter

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